If you had stepped into the space at 820 E. 7th St. last year, you would have walked into Quarterside Deli and Market. Between bright orange and yellow walls, you would have found the sugary drinks and bagged snacks typical of a convenience store.
Step into that same space today and you’ll find 1st Ward Beverage Co., which opened quietly about a week ago. The walls have been repainted a medium gray, though the new owners — Tommy Clark and Tim Mueller — opted to leave the bright red ductwork. Below that ductwork is a bar with nine taps and several shelves and coolers filled with beer and wine.
Mueller is no stranger to Charlotte’s bar scene, having worked at Rí Rá Irish Pub, Connolly’s and, most recently, World of Beer. He and Clark spent the last two years scouting locations to open a place of their own and were having no luck finding a good fit until spotting the space left vacant by Quarterside Deli and Market, near the intersection of 7th and McDowell.
They have spent the last three months building out the space, adding their own spin to the place by having a local artist paint a few rock-inspired murals on the walls. As for the beer, the selection is small right now but Mueller is bringing in more shelves and coolers and hopes to have 3-4 times the amount of product by the end of March.
“We’re doing this through a progression,” said Mueller. “We don’t have the deep pockets that a lot of places do when they open.”
Since it’s a new shop and such a drastic departure from the previous space, Mueller said they’re still learning the tastes of the community and they plan to bring in beers and wines that will appeal to them.
Despite doing little to announce their opening, 1st Ward Beverage Co. has already received a good deal of foot traffic from the nearby apartments and First Ward neighborhoods, said Mueller. He anticipates most of his business will come from people that live in First Ward.
“We’re not really a destination spot like a Salud is or a Good Bottle,” said Mueller. “They have a lot of the specialty beers and it’s going to take us a while to build up to that. But being in the First Ward, there’s nothing like this around.”
From new buildings to the newly opened First Ward Park, the neighborhood is experiencing something of a transformation. Mueller hopes that he and neighboring businesses like Infused, a bar around the corner from the shop, can bring even more attention to First Ward.
“The idea is to really make this location sort of a destination spot for the First Ward,” said Mueller. “I’d love to see some more businesses come into the two available rental sites. There’s so much that’s possible for the First Ward, it’s just never been looked at that way. There’s a lot of possibilities for small businesses and events.”
And though the space itself has been transformed as well, there are some items that point to its past. You can still find cigarettes and lighters behind the bar, and a small fridge filled with cans of Red Bull sits by the taps. On a shelf next to some six-packs are items like Slim Jims and packs of Top Ramen.
Most of these items were brought in temporarily, said Mueller. He wants to replace most of them with healthier options from local vendors when possible. The shop plans to work with Pasta and Provisions to stock some frozen pizzas, pastas and sauces. Mueller would also like to be able to carry breakfast items and breads as well.
He hopes to retain some of that market feel, but reiterates that the shop is a tasting room (not a bar, he says) and a beer and wine store first and foremost.
Mueller and Clark want to hear from the community as to what beers and wines you would like 1st Ward Beverage Co. to carry. Have a suggestion? Let them know on their Facebook page.